Life is an amazing teacher, encouraging us to grow and evolve. This is not to say its lessons aren’t difficult, sad, or unwanted at times, but their difficulty and challenge are increased by resistance to what is unfolding or happening, and an inability to remain open, accept and embrace, learn, and move forward stronger, more aware, and more in touch with ourselves.
The world’s great wisdom traditions teach when your life is shaken up, Spirit is doing the shaking to wake you up. Whether this is true or not, I have found in my own experience that resisting or pushing against what is happening usually doesn’t change much, and leaves me frustrated and exhausted.
What if instead of negatively judging and complaining about what we think we don’t want, pushing to change it at all costs, we took time to relax and examine things from a higher/wider perspective in search of “what could I learn from this situation?”
- What if all situations, people, and events in our life had something to teach us?
- What if instead of shutting down, resisting, blaming, or complaining about people and situations, we opened, became curious, and interested in what was unfolding…perhaps what the other person was really saying and trying to express, and what came up for us in our own emotional field?
- What if the peace we lose in our lives when someone does…..or says.……has nothing to do with them, but instead shows us fears where we shut down and close off to life?
If we could slow down our reaction time and listen to our feelings about what’s happening, we put on a proverbial pause button and move from direct stimulus-response, to a more powerful stimulus-CHOICE-response. By doing so we may refrain from saying irretreivable (once they’re out of your mouth, you can’t bring them back no matter how much you wish you could…), angry, hurtful words that push people away and destroy relationships. Do we really want to hurt people, or is this a self defense tactic to protect ourselves from feeling pain and hurt? Once we have said those irretrievable angry, hurtful, blaming words we walk away from others, increase beliefs in separation, and actually cut ourselves of from ourselves. We are left with self- righteous feelings of “damn it, they have no right to.…”., or “I won’t allow anyone to ..…” to soothe our vulnerable feelings of unworthiness, shame, repressed pain, and fear.
We never connect and touch the reasons or seeds behind the feelings, the emotion(s) brought up that trigger the habitual defensive push back, anger, or blame. What feelings came up and what could they tell me if I remained open and curious enough to listen? What would they tell me about my fears and beliefs, perhaps of unworthiness or need to control circumstances and people to feel safe?.
I recently met a gentle man I felt very tuned to, safe and relaxed with. We seemed to be on a similar wavelength, enjoying a strong connection with nature, tango, natural foods and shared values. As our relationship developed we took time to explore and get to know each other, allowing closeness to unfold at its own pace. Things flowed easily and we appeared to communicate fluidly in decisions about weekends or meal preparation, which was shared, fun and creative. We were getting along beautifully, easily and then…, WHAMMO– he got teed off at something I did and responded in a very aggressive biting way, reprimanding me harshly on what suddenly was lese majesty, debilitating and intrusive to him.
I felt cut to the quick, stepped on, betrayed, and scared. Suddenly the person I felt safe, comfortable and held by, appeared as an angry, controlling monster, insensitive to my feelings. When we tried to speak after a 2 day break, he backed off, cool, detached, and summed things up by announcing he didn’t care anough about me to make an effort…It wasn’t going to work full stop.
I was surprised, hurt, and later angry. Trying to understand what had created the abrupt change, I asked him many questions (I don’t think he could hear), gave him space, sent inspiring quotes… all to no avail. After two weeks it was evident his decision was definitive and he couldn’t understand why I was bringing up the whole thing again. He was done: not enough feeling…done.
In relationships we often call this type of inexplicable reaction, “hitting an upper limit”; the limit varies with individuals, but reflects fear of closeness and intimacy, and being hurt. It has nothing to do with the other person though it appears to, and can be triggered by any event, sound, image, taste that brings up a repressed trauma linked to fear of suffering once again. The reaction is in fact a way of taking care of ourselves, but is very limited for it requires retreating into a protective shell, pulling away from life and others, and…turning our backs on the scared, vulnerable parts of ourselves that need reassurance and care.
I don’t know what triggered my friend and he may not have taken the time and care to discover it himself. What is noteworthy is he told me it was not the first time someone had mentioned this dry, angry, rebuffing characteristic in him- he was familiar with the reaction, but apparently unwilling to listen to what it was trying to tell him.
We cannot lead another’s life or teach them their lessons. We can only focus on learning our own, and remaining available and caring as much as we can towards others and ourselves. In the end, we all seek, compassion, care, and love…all of us, and that is what shatters the myth of separation.
In applying my own teaching to this experience, I was able (after listening and understanding my own hurt and anger) to see this as another opportunity to care, for myself and another…, to neither reject my friend, nor expect him to do what I thought he ‘should’ and could, but to allow him to be the way he was, at this moment. And I could send him thoughts of compassion for whatever pain he was encountering, while respecting his desire to withdraw.
And there it is…not at all what I expected or wanted, but I experienced heightened open-heartedness and peace with an undesirable turn of events. If we all begin to open, taking baby steps to embrace abandoned, disenfranchised parts of ourself… or at the very least refraining from contributing to isolation, anger and hatred, our world could improve on many fronts… less road rage, fewer angry arguments, diminished vandalism and theft… even fewer wars.
It all starts with us, where we are right now, with a small willingness to explore.. explore our feelings, questions, and beliefs about ourselves in gentleness, acceptance and compassion. I’m not saying the path is easy, but it’s the only one that leads to transformation and openess to life, to what ‘is’, instead of running away from difficulties and hoping to create an impossible dream of a picture-perfect world without difficulty or pain, where things always go our way. Dream on…and life will continue to remind you to wake up.
Letters to a young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 “(…) I would like to beg you (…) as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books, written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, some day in the future you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer”. – translated from German
Would love to hear your comments and thoughts…Feel free to share questions and comments below.